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Why does the Apple TV still exist?

You may have heard that people enjoy television. Apple have dabbled in the space for quite some time, what with the Apple TV streaming box, the Apple TV app, and the Apple TV+ streaming service. That’s a lot of TV.

The first piece of that, though, the Apple TV box hasn’t seen a lot of love in recent years. It used to be the only way to access parts two and three of Apple’s offering but, now, the app and streaming service are hitting other television sets and boxes.

So Jason Snell asked why the Apple TV box even exists:

I don’t know where the Apple TV hardware is going, but it can’t stand still. It either needs to evolve into something else, or die. And it might need to die anyway.

One quick thing: I don’t think anyone who owns an Apple TV, right now, is in a great position to say why it still exists. If you bought one recently, maybe. But most others? Nope. There’s a difference between “Why do you still use and/or like this thing?” and “Is this thing a viable product in the market today?” The answer to the second question, when you’re looking at the Apple TV, is “… Nah”.

The answer to the first question, for me, is “I like it, is all.” And there’s one reason for that: I’m an unabashed Apple TV apologist.

Snell rattles off a list of its advantages – even if he cruelly, callously casts off the TV’s screensavers as an afterthought – and they don’t justify the little box’s premium price point (which hasn’t dropped in three years and it was expensive to start with). It’s a competitive marketplace for this kind of device and, yeah, Apple’s offering doesn’t distinguish itself or justify the expense. It’s just nice.

But it is nice.

If my Apple TV 4K packed it in today, I’d buy a new one. Options are limited here in Australia and I’m not sold on Chromecasts or Fire Sticks.1 Asking Siri to jump through videos is just that good. The screensavers are incredible. tvOS, neglected as it is, is smooth. Then there are the services: Music and Fitness+ have their hooks in me.

There’s something to be said for paying a bit extra, if you can afford it, for an experience you just plain like. The OS is quick and easy to navigate. App icons animate with faux-depth when you wiggle them around. It’s fun: making the Settings icon shimmy is a nice way to fiddle when you’re thinking about what to watch. Apple is particularly good at adding small sparks of joy to their products and they’re the kinds of things that make a product, even a neglected one like Apple TV, harder to give up. People will remember how you make them feel before they remember what you do, after all.2

None of that makes the Apple TV a particularly good product right here, right now (especially at its price point). It’s in dire need of an update, if that factors into Apple’s plans, or a price drop to stay competitive.

Chances are, the box isn’t a big part of Apple’s plans. They’ll more success, and more product lock-in, by getting things like AirPlay and their services (TV+, Fitness, Music) on other streaming boxes rather than relying on their own. An Apple TV box is a better experience if you’ve bought shows and movies from the iTunes Store but that doesn’t scale as well as getting your services everywhere else.

But I like the Apple TV. I’d get a new one if mine died and I’d love to see an updated version of the little box that could.

Like I said: I’m an apologist.

  1. I also just dislike Google and Amazon. 

  2. No idea if this applies to products, though. 

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